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Government to Pay $5.4M to Recording Artist in Career-Ending Crash

/i>A judge in San Diego awarded $5.4 million in damages against the US government and in favor of a motorcyclist, whose severe injuries in a collision with an on-duty U.S. Border Patrol agent ended his music recording career.

After a four-day trial, US District Court Judge Larry H. Burns of the Southern District of California, awarded over $6.3 million on July 20, 2014 to John B. Hendrickson of Chula Vista, CA. The judge apportioned fault 85% to the U.S. Government and 15% to Hendrickson, for a net verdict of nearly $5.4 million.

Attorneys Robert J. Francavilla and Angela Jae Chun of CaseyGerry in San Diego represented Hendrickson, a 50-year-old recording engineer, in a personal injury action under the Federal Tort Claims Act for a collision caused by Border Patrol agent Ryan Moore on Otay Mountain Truck Trail in August 2009.

The government denied that the border patrol agent did anything wrong. Instead, it alleged that Hendrickson caused the crash by operating his motorcycle too fast and for his position on the roadway, which is essentially a single lane.

Zero offer heading into trial


“During the five years of litigation leading up to the trial, the government denied responsibility for Hendrickson’s injuries and refused to engage in settlement negotiations,” Francavilla said. “There was a zero offer heading into trial, and we are pleased justice has been served after all these years. The verdict acknowledges the responsibility the government has to do its job safely and protect the public.”

According to Francavilla, the crash happened at 3:45 PM on an unpaved mountain road with multiple blind turns and unprotected drop-offs. Border patrol agent Moore, who was on patrol, was driving a government-issued Chevy Silverado westbound toward Hendrickson, who was riding his motorcycle in the opposite direction.

Moore sped through a 90-degree blind turn on a narrow road and collided with Hendrickson, who was approaching the curve on the other side, throwing him off his motorcycle and causing debilitating injuries. “As a result of the collision, my client’s severely broken leg ultimately had to be amputated,” Francavilla said.

“Based on the evidence, the judge determined that Moore was the major cause of the collision, as he was operating his vehicle at a speed too fast for the conditions and failed to yield the right of way,” Francavilla explained.

Injuries end recording career


John Hendrickson is a gifted recording engineer with a unique talent for having perfect pitch.  He worked at Capitol Records with well-known artists such as Foo Fighters, Diana Krall and Nat King Cole.

His injuries have gravely affected him – he can no longer participate in his life passions of motorcycling with friends, hiking trails and recording music.

Hendrickson continues to suffer from debilitating chronic migraines that leave him bedridden for up to 3-4 days a week and suffers pain in his residual leg, phantom pain, fatigue, lack of stamina, neuroma pain on the lateral side of his stump, post-traumatic arthritis in his left knee.  His limitations prevent him from performing many daily chores and activities of daily living, including yard work, vacuuming, sweeping, carrying multiple items at one time, climbing stairs. He will require life long future care, including extended therapy, in-home med assistance and housekeeping assistance.

“This verdict sends a clear message that motorcycle riders have a right to safety on our roads too; and that if any driver --- whether an individual citizen or a representative of the federal government -- carelessly injures a rider, that driver will be held accountable.”

Hendrickson, a longtime motorcyclist, is eager to raise awareness about motorcycle safety and has underscored the importance of watching out for bikers when on the road, especially as increasing numbers of people ride motorcycles. “Motorists should always look out for motorcyclists and give them plenty of extra room -- as even a minor collision with a motorcycle can have devastating consequence,” Hendrickson said.

This is the second time in six months that CaseyGerry has prevailed against the U.S. government on behalf of a motorcyclist. In both cases, the government denied any responsibility.

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